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Lemon8 Is for the (Hot, Rich) Girlies
i am a demigoddess, and you can be too // or, the unobtainable, and how to obtain it
If Instagram, Pinterest, and Canva procreated, Lemon8 would be their hybrid offspring. This, at least, is the line being parroted by scores of TikTokers, a substantial but unknowable number of whom have been paid by Lemon8 to promote the app. Paid or unpaid, Lemon8 converts have been enthusiastically telling their followers that ByteDance’s newest social network is cute and wholesome, that it’s the next big thing (download immediately!), that it’s an app for true creators, and finally, that it’s the ultimate girl’s girl app — guys are free to use it, and plenty already do, but in its heart of hearts, Lemon8 is for the girlies.
You post curated photo dumps (Instagram) but with practical tips (Pinterest recipe) spliced into the photos themselves with cute labels (Canva). There’s a For You page that uses TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, with six content categories to browse — Fashion, Beauty, Food, Wellness, Travel, and Home. Content is displayed in two columns, down which you can scroll endlessly, but you have to actually click on a post to swipe through photos and read the caption, so the user experience isn’t quite as mind-numbing as on TikTok.
The app isn’t yet nearly as populated as the major existing social media platforms, but its content library is already effectively infinite. If you so desired, you could spend every waking hour gawking at GRWM (get ready with me) makeup tutorials, minimalist spring OOTD (outfit of the day) lookbooks, hormone balancing diet tips, cottage core apartment decor inspiration posts, 160 pound weight loss journeys, breast augmentation before-and-after photo dumps, how to build a bubble butt exercise routines, $2300/night Joshua Tree luxury getaways, and step-by-step instructions for how to snap the perfect mirror selfie.
Many of the posts on Lemon8 are complete with specific product recommendations — log onto express.com to replicate this “simple” spring outfit for the low-low price of $325! Make an adorable trending retro pic by throwing on this Agolde bodysuit with a YSL leather belt, go to an upscale bar and order a cute cocktail, have your boy-toy snap a photo, download the Dazz Cam app, and use the CPM35 filter! Even makeup beginners can master a natural, subtle look with this Merit Flush Balm blush!
Nothing I’m describing here feels particularly new or earth-shattering. Girls have been posting mirror selfies on Instagram for the better part of a decade. They’ve been watching make-up tutorials on YouTube for longer than that. They’ve all seen their fair share of curated fall outfit inspo-posts on Pinterest. Diet tips, exercise routines, travel experiences — all these things have long existed elsewhere on the internet, and many of the platforms they’re on don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Brand sponsorships and product advertisements are nothing new for content creators. So why is Lemon8 the next big thing? What sets it apart?
The Aesthetics of Perfection
The biggest Instagram and TikTok influencers — the Charli DiAmelios and Addison Raes of the world — have always seemed like demigoddesses. They were the beauty standard, the supermodels of social media. On a good day, in the right lighting, smaller influencers could come close, but they were ultimately pale imitations of true internet stars. And everyone else, whether it tortured them or not, sort of had to accept mediocrity and relative obscurity as their fate. You’d never look like them, but on the bright side, that was true of almost everyone. So go on and post your lukewarm thirst trap, all your friends are here for it. Our timelines are populated with raw posts from unextraordinary people with a few diamonds mixed into the rough.
Lemon8 is different. It’s all diamond, no rough. Even the upper crust of TikTok finds it intimidating:
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The top comment on that video reads: “I’m convinced they’re all AI generated influencers,” to which OP responded “seriously why is everyone so perfect.”
You’ve never heard of the girl on your Lemon8 For You page, and neither has anyone else. She only has 500 followers, but somehow every post looks like a Vogue cover. Her Sunday brunch OOTD is runway material. Her apartment is a Succession film set. The Swiss Alps she picnics in are somehow more striking than any mountain you could actually climb. Even her general tso’s chicken is a three-Michelin-Star meal.
A lot of the people posting on Lemon8 appear to be quite wealthy. They have sparkling chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling of their sprawling NYC apartments. They have walk-in closets, spiral staircases, and granite bathtubs in their powder rooms. They go on Napa Valley wine tours wearing Martha’s Vineyard merch, and their vision of budget-friendly fashion includes Versace sunglasses.
Beauty and wealth — or, the appearance of wealth — are the raw materials of a popular Lemon8 post. The ruling aesthetic is “immaculate.” To adhere to the aesthetic, you have to be hot, well-dressed, and surrounded by man-made or natural beauty. You need to be able to capture all this in a high-resolution image. And Lemon8 will take over from there. It has an array of photo processing and graphic design tools built in to take your thirst trap to the next level. Whether you’re going on a “casual” coffee run, frollicking in a Swiss meadow, or staging a full-fledged parking lot fashion shoot, you’ll look like a bonafide bombshell:
Thirst Trap Transcendence (in three easy steps, on a budget)
For the time being, attempts at humor on Lemon8 are few and far between. Shitposting is right out. A good post is one in which the poster appears physically desirable. Envy is the engine of the app. But if social media superstars on other platforms seem completely out of reach — a species unto their own — those on Lemon8 appear oddly accessible, in spite of their uniquely elevated aesthetic. The practical, how-to spirit of Pinterest is central to Lemon8. The app turns its creators into demigoddesses, and then instructs them to stretch a hand down into the mortal realm: you, too, can become divine — in three simple steps, on a budget. Adhere to the right diet, grind through the right exercise routines, know what to ask your hairdresser, buy the right skincare products, pair the right clothes with the right accessories in the right season. Follow me, so you can become me. I’ll teach you how, one sponsored post at a time.
And the how-to guides aren’t focused solely on how to sculpt and adorn your body. The goal is not merely to look good IRL; it’s to captivate the person sitting alone in their apartment, scrolling by your thumbnail on their phone screen. Typical post headlines include: cool Central Park locations to make the most out of your photos; app I use to achieve polaroid effect on my pics; how to get the perfect mirror selfie; 4 easy pose ideas if you’re “unphotogenic”; why angles are SO important; how to get that perfect gym pic — side lighting is key!! If you study these posts carefully enough, you’re all but guaranteed to achieve thirst trap transcendence — provided, of course, you’ve got the raw materials the Lemon8 gods demand.
Alas, most of us were not blessed with those raw materials. In the words of James Blake: “I look okay in the magic hour, in the right light, with the right amount of power” — just okay. For the unwashed masses, all the inspo posts and how-to guides and Sephora shopping sprees in the world aren’t enough. The bar is high on Lemon8. The people on your screen are hotter than the ones you pass on the street. Every morning, they wake up in a cleaner, better decorated version of the apartment you dream about. They vacation in places you can never go, not because they don’t exist, but because the real version just isn’t quite as stunning as it seemed in the post.
If you spend a few hours on the app, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you need some dark humor to cope with your feelings of inadequacy — better go elsewhere; no shitposters in sight. Of course, there’s always the ultimate internet hellscape escape hatch: go touch grass. Except, when you log off of Lemon8 and step outside, you might find yourself wondering: how come the grass looks so… meh?
— Nick Russo
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